The life story of Moses is found in Exodus, chapters 1-20. In summary, he is born to a Levite family, roughly 400 years after Jacob and his sons had settled in Goshen, in northern Egypt. It is a time of severe bondage for the clans of Israel. They are also being persecuted by the reigning Pharaoh, out of jealousy for their prosperity. Pharaoh has decreed that all male children born to the Israelites is to be killed. To avoid this sentence, the parents of Moses have placed him in an ark, and set him adrift on the river. He is found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who then raises him as her own son. As an adult, Moses kills an Egyptian guard for abusing the Israelite slaves. He flees into the desert, marries, and makes his living caring for the flocks of his father-in-law.
During this time, Moses experiences a theophany, with Jehovah appearing to him in a burning, but unconsumed, bush. God calls him to be the leader of His people, for the time has come for them to depart Egypt. Moses returns to Egypt, and confronts a hard-hearted Pharaoh. Through a series of plagues, culminating in the events commemorated by Passover, God convinces Phraraoh to let His people go. Pharaoh reneges, but is killed, along with his army, at the Red Sea, after the dry-footed escape by the Israelites. God leads Israel as a pillar of smoke by day, and of fire by night, bringing them, after three lunar months, to Mount Sinai in chapter 19.
The events of Sinai are prefaced in 19:4-6 with a reminder of the redemption that Israel had just experienced, with a calling to be His covenant people, that they may be a kingdom of priests, i. e., a nation of mediators, representing Him to the rest of the world. This order is important, from redemption, to calling, to sending. It demonstrates that the Mosaic covenant is not a legal covenant, but rather a stage in the covenant of grace. They are not given the law as a step toward the redemptive relationship, but rather as an application of a redemption already received.
This principle is repeated in 20:1, the preamble to the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Only then does He proceed with His commandments, four primarily concerning that vertical relationship between God and men, and then four primarily concerning the horizontal relationships between men. The giving of the commandments to the people is immediately followed, in verses 22-26, of the first instructions for the sacrificial system. Thus is revealed God’s knowledge that the Law will be violated, men will sin, and His institution of forgiveness of sin. The Law is thereby bookended with revelation of God’s covenantal grace, doubly revealing that the Commandments are gracious, not a system of works righteousness.
We see this pattern repeated in an abbreviated form in 24:1-8. The people worship in v.1, with a covenantal response in v. 3, a reference to the Law with a sacrifice in vv. 4-5, with the response and atonement repeated in vv. 7-8. This pattern continues the emphasis on relationship, then holiness, then atonement. Moses remembers those principles after the people make the golden calf. In 34:9, he asks God to “pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your inheritance.” He depends on God’s provision for forgiveness.
Moses recalls those principles at the end of Leviticus, after giving the detailed laws of worship and sacrifice. In 26:43b-46, he writes (beginning with God’s words), “‘They shall make amends for their iniquity, because they despised My judgments and because the abhorred My statutes. I will not cast them away, nor will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly and to break My covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. But for their sake, I will remember the covenant with their fathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.’ These are the statutes and judgments and laws that the Lord made between Himself and the children of Israel on Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.” As their covenant redeemer, Jehovah chooses them as His people, and promises forgiveness of their sins.
In Numbers, we see Moses acting as a priest. This is evidenced in 7:1 as he anoints and consecrates the tabernacle and its paraphernalia. And in 7:89, he enters the Holy of Holies to address God. In 11:10-15, he expresses exasperation with the people and their carping against their provision of manna, chastising God for making him responsible for the Israelites. He is apparently dissatisfied with his mediatorial role. The chapter ends (vv. 28-28) with Moses in the role of prophet. This combination of roles, never shared by his brother Aaron, would seem to be an aspect of his typology for Christ. In chapter 12, Aaron recognizes this superiority of Moses, and objects to it, for which he and Miriam are punished.
It isn’t until 16:40 that we see the priesthood explicitly assigned to Aaron and his descendants.
In 20:2-13, we have the account of the waters of Meribah. The people are without water, and complain against the leadership of Moses. God promises water from the rock, and Moses strikes it with his staff. In verse 12, God rebukes Moses, and tells him that he shall be punished by banning from the Promised Land. Generally, the interpretation given here is that Moses is rebuked for striking the rock, when God had told him to “tell the rock” (v. 8). However, in Psalm 106:32-33, the anonymous writer says, “They also provoked Him to wrath at the waters of Meribah, so that it went hard with Moses on their account; because they were rebellious against His Spirit, he spoke rashly with his lips” (NASB). This seems to indicate that Moses was punished, not for an action of his own, but for the actions of the people. That would be consistent with his priestly mediatorial role. And, again, it would also point to Christ’s mediatorial work. We also see this in Num. 27:13-14. In verse 13, ‘You” (“shall be gathered to your people”) is singular (“thou” in the KJV), but in verse 14 “you” (“rebelled against My word”) is plural (“ye” in the KJV). Compare als Psalm 95:8-9 (also cited in Heb. 3:15-17).
At the end of his ministry, Moses’s priesthood is again seen in Deuteronomy 27:9-10, where he joins with the other priests, his nephews, in instruction to the people. This demonstrates that his priestly office continued even after the designation of Aaron’s line for future priests.
In 31:1-8, Moses publicly names Joshua as his successor. Then, in his final sendoff, God informs him (vv. 16-17) that Israel will go astray after his passing. This theme is also applied to Christ as the antitype. The prophecy of Zechariah 13:7, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,” is applied by Christ to Himself in Matthew 26:31. This is also related to the mediatorial role seen at Meribah: just as the sin of the sheep was accounted to the shepherd, the death of the shepherd devastates his/His sheep. And finally, his passing is recorded in chapter 34.
In the calling of Joshua (Jos. 1:1-9) Joshua is reminded of Moses’s mediatorial work in the giving of the Law, but is called to obey it. This would seem to indicate that that office was not continued in him (see also 11:15). The combination of the priestly with the prophetic roles is again seen in Samuel. In I Sam. 12:6-8, he appeals to the example of Moses and Aaron as he prays for the nation of Israel, as his final acts as the last judge.
Moses, Aaron, and Samuel appear together in their priestly and mediatorial aspects in Psalm 99:6-7. In contrast, an unnamed Levite recounts the history of Israel, and specifically the portion following Moses, in Psalm 105:26-42, without reference to his priestly or mediatorial functions. This is consistent with several references in the books of Kings and of Chronicles to the Law of Moses, also without a mediatorial element.
In an interesting backhanded reference, Jeremiah 15:1, God declares that even the mediatorial standing of Moses and Samuel would prevent His judgment on apostate Judah.
The preamble to the Ten Commandments is recalled by the Prophet Micah (6:4). This relational aspect of the Mosaic covenant is recalled by God in exasperation (v.3). Thus, the prophet resumes the theme of Exodus, according to which the Law was given, not to create a salvific relationship between God and people, but rather as an enhancement of the relationship that had already been created. In the prophet, God is asking the people how they could so resent His law, considering the great redemption that He had worked for them.
In the New Testament account of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36), Moses appears, together with the Prophet Elijah, beside Jesus, before an apostolic audience. Both men speak to Jesus, but their words are not recorded. However, the Father speaks, “This is my Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him.” This event gives a visual version of that which is spoken by Christ after His resurrection (Luke 24:44, cp. v 27 and Matthew 5:17, and cf. Luke 16:29-31, John 1:45, and 5:45-46): “Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” This refers not just to the spoken words, but also to the role of Moses as the type to whom Christ is the antitype, the mediatorial prophet and priest who interceded for those whom He/he represents.
In Acts, Luke used Moses, not as a type, but rather as an apologetic source. In 3:22, 7:20-53, 26:22, and 28:23, the apostles appeal to the writings of Moses to prove that Christ was the Messiah awaited by the Jewish people. However, in 6:11 and 14 we see the anti-Christian Jews also appealing to Moses against Him. Their misuse of Moses may explain the immediately-succeeding use of Stephen of the full story of Moses in his evangelistic sermon.
While Paul makes much use of the Law in Romans, the person of Moses isn’t prominent until I Corinthians. In 10:1-8, he makes an extended use of the history of Moses, reminiscent of Stephen’s sermon. However, Paul’s audience is the Christians, as disturbed as they may be, of Corinth, not unbelieving Jews. Moses is the head of traveling Israel, who committed adultery. This is an example, Paul says, in verse 11. Just as they were baptized into Moses (v. 2), we sit down at communion (vv. 16-21), with as much complacency. Let us take their soon-following apostasy as a warning against unconcern. The parallel between Moses and Christ is in their mediatorial headship, with Israel then and these Christians now as the body, corresponding to each head.
Writing to the same Christians in II Corinthians 3:12-18, again uses a parallel between Moses and Christ for instruction. This parallel, in contrast, is not between the weaknesses of Moses’s people and the Corinthians, but rather between the ministries of Moses and Christ. Paul points to the superiority of Christ, because the veil over His glory is removed and His Spirit is with us. Paul’s argument here is similar to that of Hebrews (see below). Here the parallel is more between the respective bodies, as they correspond to their heads. He uses the same parallel in the allegory of Sarah and Hagar in Galatians 4:21-31 (mixing the types of Moses and Abraham).
The writer of Hebrews, as part of his apologetic argument that Christ is superior to the Old Testament saints, uses Moses’s experience at Sinai, in 12:18-24. Each is the mediator of His/his respective covenant. But the Mosaic covenant was filled with terror and death, while that of Christ is a “festal gathering” of “the righteous made perfect.” In His mediatorial work, Christ had achieved what Moses was unable to give. The writer’s argument is that all that the Jews had sought, but never received, from Moses was to be found in the anti-type, Jesus Christ. That is why He is superior.
John made a similar case in Revelation 15:3-4, with even Moses singing the song of victory in the Lamb, as the heavenly tabernacle is opened (v. 5). Do you see, John asks? Moses, in whom you relied, could only bring you into the outer portion of his tabernacle. But even he glorifies the Lamb, because He has brought us into the Holy of Holies in the heavenly tabernacle! Even Moses, John implies, acknowledges that the glorious salvation that he foresaw is now found in Jesus Christ. He only brought you the daily blood of lambs that could not remove your sins, but now the Lamb of God has shed His own blood, and we are righteous in Him!The Pentateuch provides an extensive description of the birth, life, and death of Moses, with all the glorious things that God did through him as the mediator of his covenant: the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the conquest of the Promised Land. But he was only the type. The eternal royal priesthood, the once-for-all effectual sacrifice, and the Heavenly Jerusalem are all achieved in his anti-type, Jesus Christ, Jehovah Incarnate.